Thursday, March 21, 2013

203 Homeless in Howard County

Blair Ames reports that the annual Point-in-Time survey of homeless in Howard County indicated 203 people within our borders are living without a place to call home.  65 are unsheltered.  This is an improvement from the 2012 survey, which counted 230 homeless individuals and 82 living unsheltered.

As noted in the article: "The majority of homeless surveyed this year are staying in North Laurel and Savage area, according to Vidia Dhanraj, coordinator of community partnerships with the Department of Citizen Services."

This is certainly progress, but unfortunately these numbers are not too far off the year to year variability of a transient population that is crowded along County lines, making any jurisdictional count all the more haphazard.  But at 10% reduction, something good is happening.

We have a Council looking at other offices and a term-limited County Executive.  For all of the land use, pools, fire taxes, and growth tiers they've addressed over the past two years, you have to wonder if they are feeling a bit unsatisfied.  You enter politics to positively affect the community you live in and change lives, not trace sewer lines on a map to determine likely areas of future access.  (Or maybe you do.  If that's you're thing, don't like me knock it.)

Time is ticking.  Thanks to the preliminary actions of this County Executive, there is a very good chance that with continued steady effort, homelessness may be eradicated in Howard County within the next eight years.  What's missing is a champion.  Not just quiet leadership.  Not just the third vote.  A champion identifying what has been done and what's left to be done, pushing their fellow Council members out of their comfort zone, because solving homelessness will not be comfortable.

It is all right within their wheelhouse.  This is not a State issue.  It's a Howard County issue.  Transportation, child care, housing.  There are Howard County citizens.  And when it's all done, and you slide your name-plate off the dais, will you be satisfied in what you've done for them in 8, 9, or 12 years?

In January, 26 year old Hanifa Kiwanuka was killed in a flood in North Laurel.   Her death notice was posted in an online Ugandan news site.  While our world went on without much notice or grief, the Howard County Homeless Gazette (PDF) evidenced clear anguish and loss over Hanifa's death, paired with frustration that one of their own died in a flood.  That ran through their home.  Along a river.

We're letting people down.  There is urgency here. 

That's all for today.  Have a great Thursday doing what you love.